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JewishPress.com readers are invited to watch LIVE ONLINE as the robotic lunar lander lifts off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

An Israeli nonprofit called SpaceIL designed and developed the 1,322-lb robot called Beresheet, which means "in the beginning" - the first words in the Bible.

The rocket is carrying three separate spacecraft, most notably Israel's privately funded lunar lander.

The mission will be the third for Falcon 9's reusable first stage, which was already used in July and October.

It successfully blasted off on schedule Thursday night, before separating from the second stage and landing back down on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship for its such accomplishment.

NASA, which has installed equipment on Beresheet to upload its signals from the Moon, said last week it aims to land instruments later this year or next year and that it is inviting private sector bids to build and launch the USA probes.

For Israel, the landing itself is the main mission, but the spacecraft also carries a scientific instrument to measure the lunar magnetic field, which will help understanding of the Moon's formation.

"Upon deployment, it will travel to the moon using its own power, a voyage that will take almost two months".

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"We'll keep analyzing the data, but bottom line is we entered the very exclusive group of countries that have launched a spacecraft to the moon", said Yigal Harel, head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program.

After launching from Cape Canaveral, the spacecraft will make several lunar orbits before attempting a soft landing on the moon's surface. SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said, "It is rocket science, but our goal is to show them that it's not magic - it's something they can understand".

'This is Uber-style space exploration, so we're riding shotgun on the rocket, ' Winetraub explained at a news conference on the eve of launch. The primary payload was the Indonesian Nusantara Satu communications satellite, also known as PSN 6.

The Beresheet mission originally was part of the Google Lunar XPrize competition and even made the final cut before the contest ended past year without a victor. The organizers made a decision to press ahead on their own, with donations from billionaires as well as schoolchildren. The reuse of boosters is part of SpaceX's plan to make spaceflight cheaper.

The booster from this mission is scheduled to be redeployed in April. Once in the geostationary transfer orbit, Beresheet was deployed first at a mission-elapsed-time of about 34 minutes. One hour after the launch, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.

The 5-foot-tall Beresheet lander will be tucked into the rocket with Nusantara Satu.

SpaceX's 23-story Falcon 9 rocket should launch sometime between 8:45 p.m. and 9:17 p.m. EST tonight.

The payload fairings are clam shell-like nose cone halves that protect the craft's payload. This was the firm's 70th launch.


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